My Words, My World

First drafts – A few pages in the large wilderness of the world of writing

Archive for the tag “Blood”

Morning mist

Waiting for the kettle to boil I took my usual 5-minute breather on the balcony, around 5.30am.  It had rained heavily the night before and the morning found itself under a heavy grey cloak.  I always enjoy standing out there; breathing, observing, listening and thinking.  The mountains wore skirts of cloud.  I came in, tea in hand and sat down, with just the first sentence in my head.  Strange how things go off on a tangent as they develop.

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The cloud clung to the sides of the mountain.  Beyond it, the sun had risen but the day had dawned pale and would remain that way.   Water from last night’s rain clung to everything.  Hidden blackbirds chattered in the trees and every now and again a crow would raise its voice above the drip, drip of the water.  Pine scent filled the air, which was clean but sombre.

It was time to move.

There was now enough light to get a helicopter in the air and heat imaging would see through the cloud.  He was sure he’d heard dogs in the valley below, and the rain wouldn’t cover his scent for long.

He grit his teeth as he tipped a little schnapps from his flask onto the blood-soaked gauze on his thigh.  The schnapps was the only thing between a usable leg and infection.  In this humidity gangrene would take hold soon if he didn’t find the help he knew was waiting for him.

Four miles to the border.  Four miles till the forest sloped down on the other side of the mountain.  He put all his weight on the pine branch he was using for a crutch and placed his holed leg forward.

It was time to move.

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Splinter deep

The old year slipped into the new

While yesterday’s pain

is swept with a broom

Hard bristle scratch

My thoughts, my face

Dust choking

Acid soaking

The handle hands the hand a splinter

Through nail and skin

Deeper and deeper

Poisoning and malevolent

Burrowing and diving

Septicaemic

I can feel it

Arrow sharp

But not enough

To pierce my heart

So it turns on me

and burns in me

But spurs me

On.

There is no war to end all wars

One hundred years on and…

A brief truce broken
A steel head awoken
And glared into the night
A firefight,
Candlelight: mourners
Apparently security means a dawn raid
An air raid,
Siren
Not silent
Blaring, uncaring

The choke of smoke
Ashes to ashes
Dust to dust
On whose hands the blood
That puddles the street
Beneath frightened feet
Running, fighting
Toe to toe
Door to door
Calibre counts much more

A prayer for the lost
And for those who remain;
Once again
The blinding smoke
The dust that chokes
The blood that soaks
The tears that burn
Amid the fires that turn
Earth to hell
A hell on earth

Suffer little children
As men hide among you
While their enemies’ bomb you
Poor innocent souls
As the death toll
Rises
Through wars’ devices
Bodies twisted and torn
Lives shattered and shorn
Of all hope of peace

A three day pull-out
A humanitarian hand-out
Look at me
Through your blood-shot,
Blood filled
Hateful eyes
They say security means war my friend
Do you really think
It will ever end?

I’ll just close my eyes a while

Ah, at last.  I’ve finally written something fictional, it seems ages since the last one.  Thanks to Morgen Bailey and her Story Writing Exercises I found myself writing this at half past midnight, using the keywords:  need, leave, Nebraska, pick, song.  I went slightly over the 15 minute limit – 17 to be exact.  Then I left it, went to bed and came back to touch it up this morning.  So, thanks for that Morgen.  Great exercise!  So, let’s see how this little 550-worder stands up in the warm light of a summer morning shall we?

  ***

My back is sore, my legs cramped and my coat can’t be pulled any more tightly around me. My breath fogs and my fingers and toes seem to have left me for warmer climes, but my ribs, hard against the hard cold wood, jolting and jerking, are the worst.

I’d taken a beating before leaving Summer Creek. Panning for gold in them hills can make you feel like a king, but it can make others feel like killing you, make them envious. I’d gotten away as best I could I suppose, considering the kicking I got. Still, I kept my gold, or most of it. They only found a few nuggets and the rest was well-hidden. It was the gold I’d promised not to touch: Janie’s gold. The gold I wanted to win Janie back with, the gold I need to win Janie back. As I move I can hear her letter rustle in my coat pocket, a crinkled reminder of a love gone bad, and a love now gone.

The hell was she doing in Nebraska anyhow? What, or rather who made her leave? I knew the answer to that; she couldn’t live alone for long, she needed company and preferable the male-type. The Lincoln postmark was the first thing I saw when I received the letter, two months ago now. It made my heart sink, then I panned just that little bit harder, worked just that little bit longer to bring her some gold from the Black Hills, to get her to come back to St. Louis. I’m a fool, I know but this is no fool’s gold in my possession. She’ll see that, when we meet. I still can’t believe she’s gone even now. I can think of nothing else as I sit, freezing my ass in this slow, empty cattle wagon, shunting and bumping through the South Dakota night.

I lay my head back, close my eyes and listen to the movement over the tracks, each cross-tie and rail joint out to get me. I’m sure I can taste blood now; punctured lung? Could be, 6 pairs of boots can do damage to a man already weakened with a broken heart. I begin to hum an old song; The ship that never returned, one of our camp side favourites. Billy would take that banjo from the sackcloth and pick like an Appalachian angel. Billy. Billy bust flat this autumn, running up debts and making enemies. They took his banjo, then they took Billy. Mountain justice. No one said anything, we all had debts but most of us were panning enough for our need; except Billy.

All this gold weighing down my pocket and I’ve not eaten in almost a week; feels like my stomach is touching my backbone: it probably is. At least I’ve Janie’s gold, hidden good. I would write her a letter or a note but my fingers couldn’t hold a pencil. I’ll just sit here all quiet. I wish there was at least a cow for company.

I feel so weak, so tired, it’s getting colder. I can taste the blood good now, getting stronger with every jolt of the train. I think I’ll just close my eyes a bit. I know I shouldn’t but just for a short while, I’m so tired. And so damned cold.

A prayer for the Right

Aguilar, this one at least, wasn’t a real boxer, so boxing history buffs needn’t get their gloves in a twist.  I pulled a name out of a hat, liked it, and went with it.  It’s another pre-dawn creation that gets left to pickle all day until I can get back home and tinker with it.  I found my mind resting on a Cuban table just after the revolution

**************************************

We sat and listened to the Aguilar fight on the old, battered radio which normally lived on the shelf but was now placed before us on the table, with a couple of rum glasses and an ashtray filling with cigar ash for company, imagining the scene at Madison Square Gardens.  The crowd of Fedora-wearing men, looking like Sinatra and staring at the ring through the smoke of a thousand glowing cigarettes.  The ring girls parading around the ring while holding the number of the next round, and showing off their bathing suits.

We didn’t bet.  It was enough to go halves with old Fernandez for the bottle of rum and a few cigars.  The smell of the grilled chicken and rice we’d eaten earlier still filled the air, even above the cigar smoke.

“He’s going down in this one,” said Fernandez, his chin resting on his hands, squinting and coughing, “he won’t last until the eighth.”  I stayed silent.

The bell sounded for the seventh round, we heard that bell all the way from Madison.  A cheer went up, probably a sympathy vote for Aguilar.  We love to see bloody people, it must be a trait left in us from the days of the gladiators, they suffer and we love them for it.

“He’ll go down in this,” repeated Old Fernandez, “his legs have gone and he can’t see.”

Fernandez could sense how the fight was going even without the commentator.  His battered face a reminder of his bare-knuckle fights 50 years before.

I was willing Aguilar to stay on his feet and for the Lord to put strength into that mighty right of his.  I felt my prayers failing as he fell to the canvas once again.  The wind outside the open window moved the palms to a low lament, as the commentator lamented his bloody face.  I carried on willing my strength and prayers to cross the slip of ocean between my land and his.

Aguilar ha terminado, no puede continuar asi!” the radio screamed at us.

“Courage Aguilar!  Courage!” I shouted back.

The rum sat shimmering in the glass as my hands twisted and wrung themselves into knots in my lap, unable to help.  My cigar had fallen onto the table.

I would feel every hurt Aguilar took to the very end.  I stretched out a hand for my cigar but it never reached it.

Un milagro!  Un milagro!” yelled the commentator.  I looked at Fernandez’ stony, face and saw his wrinkled eyes shine.  A miracle?  What miracle?

He’d done it.  Aguilar had done it.  That mighty right hand had found the strength from somewhere and the referee was still counting out his opponent above the roar of the crowd.

My cheeks were suddenly wet and I look at the old man in front of me, his handkerchief in his hand.  Aguilar.  My little brother.  Quito, the fifth son.  The only one of us who had made it to the promised land but who could now never come back. 

Sound Travels

In the cold January air flame and smoke disappear

but the sound goes on forever. 

The pistol crack; the victim’s gasp,

dead before his wide-eyed head smashes against the pavement;

the screams of the passers-by;

the shouting policemen holding them back;

the wailing ambulance;

the knock, apologetic, on the door;

the crying, desperate,

left without a husband and father;

the monotone of the priest;

the 12 clicking heels take the coffin;

the sobs of the veiled

and the final, definite scraping of soil,

thrown from shovel to grave. 

The shot was still ringing out.

The war, Baby.

The lines.  So many of them it seems, interconnected and weaving a spider’s web of expression (exhaustion) on my face.  My face.  My Insomnia.  My card.  I present me and myself to you, my expression (exhaustion) for you to see.  Is it not enough to just get through the day without having killed or been killed, to keep your job, to love your wife/partner/mistress/friends?  What does the world want from me at this hour – always?  Why does it not let me sleep?

We went through the war, Baby.  Almost 15 years, you and I.  Our war.  Troughs deep as trenches, trapping body, poison, blood but offering shelter.  A temporary escape?  Choose the sniper’s bullet or machine-gun mow-down.  The result’s the same.  Bleeding, twitching body on the ground.  Life-draining.

The war Baby.  Those truces. Those long (but not long forgotten) truces.  Not a trough or trench in sight.  Poppy-field sunrise.  Blackbird reveille.  No scars, bullet wounds or barbed-wire kisses. Just us: and the world.  When did you realise that Baby?  Just us.

What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

Diner

I recently submitted a piece to the quarterly The First Line, for the fall edition.  This time round the piece was rejected – no worries.  I found the site by accident one evening, and I wrote the story upon seeing the first line – which has never happened.  It was a great exercise and so I’ll put it on here, simply for that fact, to remind me I can do it.  I’m glad I tried and, after all, rejection is one step away from acceptance.  Anyway, here goes:

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A light snow was falling as Charlie Reardon left the diner and made his way down Madison Street.  The cheeseburger, fries and large coke were weighing heavy on his stomach and for one queasy moment he thought he would throw everything back up.  Leaning against an old Camaro he took a series of deep breaths, letting his head clear a little before moving on.

“Get your hands of the car man”.

Charlie lifted his hands and turned toward the voice.

“You heard him, get your hands off the car”.

“They are off” mumbled Charlie.

“What you say boy?” came the reply.  He turned toward this voice, to his left.  A fist crashed into the right side of his head, whilst another hit him just above the kidneys.  Feeling his legs give way he was spun round and a forehead was planted in his face.  His world turned black.

 

“Hey pal, are you OK”?  A light push on his shoulder.  “Hey buddy, can you hear me”?  The voice slowly filtered through to Charlie’s semiconscious brain.  “Jeez, this guy’s taken a hell of a beating.  Say Sam, should we call the cops or an ambulance”?

“No way, leave him Steve, we could be next.  What if they’re watching him?  I wanna go get the beers and run man, this stuff disturbs me.  Let’s get outta here”.

Steve looked up and down the dark street, seeing no one but now fear started to slowly knot his stomach.

“Sam, what if he…”

“Forget it buddy, it could be us”.

Looking down at the prone body Steve got to his feet.

“I guess you’re right man”, through gritted teeth as he fell into step with his friend.

 

Charlie lifted his face from the wet asphalt, feeling a sharp tearing pain as if the skin were still stuck to it.  He tried to open his eyes but only the left one responded.  The pain above his right temple seared through his head when he tried to move, and, giving it up as a bad idea he laid back down, feeling the snow fall in his ear. Somewhere a siren wailed, fading into the distance.

“Not coming for me then boys” he thought.  The pain in his head intensified.  He could feel unconsciousness slowly wash over him.

The snow started getting heavier.  Charlie couldn’t feel it.

 

“Look mama, is that man drunk”?  The kid’s whiney voice cut through the evening street sounds.

“If he doesn’t get up soon he’ll catch his death in this” said the kid’s mother, looking up at the sky as large flakes of snow descended upon them.  “Speaking of which, we’d better get you inside little man” she continued, tugging the boy’s arm as he continued to watch the man lying in the road.

“Shouldn’t we help him Mom”? the kid asked.  “In Sunday School they told us about a good Sama…Sama…Sama’ton.  Shouldn’t we be like him Mom?”

“Not if the man’s drunk, junior” she replied.  “Drunk people can be mean honey”.

“What if he’s dying Mom?”  His nasally whine was beginning to grate on his mother’s nerves.

She stood by her son and looked closer at the body.  She couldn’t see blood, which, she thought, was a blessing.  However this then strengthened her view that the man had been on a drunk and had come to harm because of it.

“Well go inside honey, and we’ll call an ambulance.  Is that good enough for my little Samaritan?”

“I guess so Mom” he replied, letting out a sigh as they turned for home.

The got through the door and the boy’s mother, true to her word, called an ambulance immediately, before taking off their coats and shoes.

“It’s out of our hands now” she said, feeling relieved but concerned at the same time.  She laid newspaper down by the door and placed their shoes upon it.  Urging her son to go and “get his ‘jamas on” she made her way to the kitchen.  She thought about having a glass of wine then remembered the man outside.  She poured some water into the kettle, deciding on a cup of tea instead.  The ambulance, its siren shredding the night air, arrived.

 

A light snow was falling as Charlie Reardon left the diner and made his way down Madison Street.  Surprisingly, he felt extremely light, almost as if he hadn’t eaten.  As he continued along the sidewalk he saw an ambulance parked against the curb.  A crowd stood round something, or someone lying in the road.

The Main Course

He made everyone look up from their meal, both female and male.  He wasn’t good looking; far from it but he had a certain something.  He was dressed in a blue shark-skin suit, and, strangely, a claret shirt.  It wasn’t this sartorial stew that drew attention though.

His face was fairly pointed and his mouth, unsmiling, seemed a little deformed, as if it had little in common with the rest of his face.  Whatever it was, it had an effect.  People stopped eating to watch him walk by; although his walk also was a little unnatural.  He seemed to glide instead of taking steps.  He was sat at a table toward the dimly lit rear of the restaurant.  He scanned the restaurant, his eyes like black marble holding the gaze of the other people till, one by one, they dropped theirs.

The Maître d’ availed himself immediately.  He arrived at the table; flicking a quick hand across the tablecloth and removing two almost invisible specks of something in one go.

“I feel carnivorous this evening”, said the man.  “I think a plate of bresaola will do me for starters.  I’ll make my mind up on the main course as I chew.”  The Maître d’ nodded.

“A bottle of sparkling water also,” he said, “I like the way those bubbles go to my head.”  Once again the Maître d’ nodded and, avoiding the seated man’s eyes, made his way to the kitchen.  He sent a waiter with the bottle of water.

The restaurant noise resumed its previous level.  Couples enjoying a romantic for two, a rose placed between them.  Business associates enjoying heated debates over targets hit and missed.  Ernest salesmen continuing their sales pitch between forkfuls of tagliatelle.

The order arrived.  Placing the plate of cured meat in front of the man, the waiter, no doubt briefed by the Maître d’, asked if he’d considered his main course.

“Still thinking,” said the man.  He hinted at a smile, allowing a glimpse of that strange mouth.  The waiter felt a small shiver run down his back but couldn’t put his finger on why it should be.  Returning a professional smile, honed during 25 years’ service, he made his way from the table.

The discussion at a table of hard-nosed marketing execs started getting heated; a little too much wine or possibly after-dinner cognac getting the better of two of them and the argument promised to get out of hand.

The man polished off the starter in less than a minute, all the while keeping his eye on events in the restaurant.  The Maître d’ was standing at the table, imploring calm with his hands held outwards but to little avail.  The shouting reached a crescendo, one of the men, with a fat sweating face and cheeks flush from the booze, was now on his feet and waving his arms around, occasionally pointing a shaking hand at one of his colleagues; a crew-cut kid with the face and neck of a bulldog.

“You’re just an overblown tele-salesman,” shouted the sweating man.  “You’ve seen nothing!  We’ve been through the mill, busting our ass studying what we do.  You arrive, make 50 phone calls and hit a lucky.  What do you know about market analytics or product lifecycle?  You just kiss the right ass in the right place and think you’re God’s gift.”

Crew-cut raised himself out of his seat and leant over the table.  Then there came the sound of breaking glass.

“Shit!”

Mr. Waving Arms held his hand to his cheek, blood seeping through his fingers.  Grabbing a serviette to hold against the man’s face the Maître d’ led him by the arm, pointing to the men’s service area.  As he quickly returned to the table of still-arguing marketing execs, the man in the shark skin suit, alone in the semi-dark, smiled to himself, revealing a huge set of triangular teeth.  He breathed in the smell of blood, and glided from his chair.

An Unfriendly Alien

I wanted to get away, run or even be put under, anything to get away from this jolting, numbing pain running through me. I didn’t know how long I’d been here, time became irrelevant. As I looked up I saw only a shape, fuzzy round the edges, not clear, just a silhouette. Alien. I could think only of the Cybermen on Dr. Who, way back when I was a kid. It was alien anyway, as was the hurt. It was less traumatic to break a bone in the body, I thought vaguely between white flashes of agony, the nerves in my face were standing on end, screaming at me, waving angry red flags at me. Half a second then another bolt of pain. I closed my eyes and my body went stiff, I felt my hands, back and legs soaked in sweat, I hadn’t even been laid out almost horizontal for more than a few minutes but the pain was becoming unbearable. I tried to move my head but to no avail, foolishly I thought it help me. My hands crossed themselves, twisting, sweating and entwining as the pain continued. Minutes passed.

A respite. I was unsure whether this pain had subsided or whether I was gradually getting used to it. However it had started to lessen, the flags went from red to orange, I had hoped for green but I guess that was asking too much. My face went from fingernail-on-blackboard nerve shredding torture to uncomfortably numb. My hands were sweating less and they stopped writhing like mating eels in a bucket. My shirt however was still soaked. I was breathing normally at least. Fearful the pain would start again I slowly opened my eyes once more.

A hand went up, the Cyberman’s head switched off and my dentist clapped me on the shoulder. “Smile”, he said, “you’re free to go.”

But Grandma…

It was a beautiful late autumn day; the sun was out and it was quite clement for the time of year.  Little Red Riding Hood made her way through the forest, following the path she had taken many times before, which lead to her grandmother’s house.

“I don’t know why she can’t move into one of the granny-flats in town,” she said to herself, “if not as if she’s short on dough.  And why does she insist on me wearing this stupid outfit?  I know my heels would get stuck in the mud but at least let me wear a pair of Nikes instead of these flat shoes with a buckle half the size of a football pitch, after all, I am 18 now.”

She stopped.  There before her was a baby deer.  They watched each other in anticipation, neither wanting to move.  A bird high up in the branches flew from its nest, startling the deer and making it run for cover.  Thinking how cute the deer was and still looking up in the trees Little Red Riding Hood tripped over a tree root.

“Oooff!” she uttered.

She brushed away at her dirty knees.  “I’d better get these clean,” she said, “Brian’ll think I’ve been up to no good again.”

Finally the trees became scarcer and she saw the little house through the branches.  No smoke here, she thought, at least Gran had the sense to go for central heating last year.

Walking up the garden path her heart stopped.  The front door was ajar; in fact it looked as if it had been wrenched from its hinges with some force.

“Grandma!” she cried and ran through the door.

The door opened into the kitchen, where a gas hob stood with a saucepan of water gently bubbling away.  On the fridge-freezer in the corner she noticed a smear of what looked like blood.  Blood!

“Grandma!” she cried again and went through to the bedroom.  Some light filtered through the drawn curtains and she noticed a shape sat up in bed.

“Grandma?  Are you ok?

“Hello dear, yes I’m ok.  I had a bit of a turn but I’m better now.”

“Let me turn the light on Gran,” replied the girl.

“No…” but Granny’s response went unheeded.  Electric light blazed.  The year before candles had been replaced when one evening Gran had gone overboard with her home-made potato wine and almost set alight not only her house but also half the forest.  Little Red startled as she took in her grandmother’s face.  There was something different about her today.

“What big eyes you’ve got Grandma,” said The Hood.

“It’s the pills for my arthritis,” came the reply, “I can’t sleep a damned wink.  The last time I felt like this was when we used to take those little purple bombers around the time Bob Dylan started getting famous.”

“What big ears you’ve got Grandma.”

“Shut up dear, I’ve always had them and I don’t see as they’re to make fun of.  Besides, your Grandfather never complained, in fact he used to… never mind.”

“What shaky hands you’ve got Grandma.”

“I want to see you dear when you’re 72.”

“And Grandma, what big teeth you have,” insisted the not-so-little red one.

“Phhhhhheeewwwww,” coughed Grandma, as a patch of what looked like fur landed at Red’s feet.

Bending down to look at it in detail, Red noticed a tail sticking out from under the bed.  A huge wolf lay there, motionless, bleeding profusely from the throat.  She looked at her grandmother in horror.  Granny shrugged her shoulders.

“It was him or me,” she said.

Red

My hands worked quickly. My left hand sliding and slipping on the form it held,  the knife I held in my right hand sliced down and red seeped from the cut it made.  The knife went deeper, still the red oozed and spread slowly across the table, forming little pools, so red.

Half an hour I had been here, my knife working continuously.  I sometimes had to pause while cramp took hold.  I shook my hand, working the fingers slowly.  The cramp passed, it had to, there was no time to have cramp, my task was too urgent.  My hands were stained red.  The colour soaked into the pores of my fingers, it would be the devil to scrub them clean afterwards but I continued nonetheless.

The knife, ever hungry, crying tears of red.  I tried to clean up as I worked but to no avail.  Sweat started to drip from my hair into my eyes, the stinging sensation forcing me to blink and stop cutting.  I wiped the sweat from my forehead.  Finally my work here was done.

Only a salad chef can appreciate the finer points of dicing a fresh beetroot.

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